On Wednesday we reported that, in a limited-distribution statement, SunCal responded to the concerns of Oakland hills residents worried about hazardous waste and fire hazards at the nearby SunCal Oak Knoll redevelopment project. Yesterday, Action Alameda News received a copy of a formal release by SunCal. And we received responses from both the City of Oakland and an Oakland hills resident.
Yesterday’s press release cites the $500,000 that SunCal claims to have pried from the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy trustee, for cleanup and maintenance at Oak Knoll. Lost in all the discussion over the Lehman bankruptcy is the fact that SunCal is responsible for day-to-day management at the site.
In SunCal’s statement, Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid is quoted as saying “For more than a year, SunCal has been working with Lehman and the court to indentify [sic] these problems.” However, the court documents we’ve seen show that SunCal has been fighting tooth and nail with Lehman, trying to get DE Shaw into the bankrupt projects, including Oak Knoll, as a financial partner, and get Lehman pushed out. Equally, Lehman has apparently been working hard to squeeze SunCal out of the same projects.
Oakland resident Donald Mitchell, who previously filed a $115 million claim with the bankruptcy courts to get money for fire hazard abatement and damages related to Oak Knoll, responded to the press release with this statement:
That SunCal has finally, more than a year later, suddenly made a weak attempt to secure just $500,000 in funding for Oak Knoll is an insult to the community and clearly directly in response to Oak Knoll neighbors taking action to protect our city.
That level of funding represents just 2% – 3% of what is required for SunCal and Lehman to comply with the City of Oakland’s lawful order that the Oak Knoll site be completey and immediately abated of its blight and hazards- to include removal of all 90-plus half-demolished buildings.
Additionally there is evidence, being investigated by Bay Area Air Quality Management District, that the 167-acre property was willfully left contaminated with asbestos and asbestos contaminated waste (some of which appears to be strewn about the site in deteriorating and compromised bags left behind by an unpaid subcontractor, now contaminating the soil, creek and air).
Yet SunCal and Lehman continue to ignore Oakland’s order in defiance of the law. This pathetic behavior on SunCal’s part is a blatant attempt to deflect unfavorable media stories, which have begun to circulate, and a transparent attempt to avoid negative fallout as they attempt the same shenanigans in Alameda.
Late yesterday, the City Attorney’s office for Oakland weighed in as well, with a statement. The full text of the statement is included below:
Over the last year, the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee responsible for the SunCal Oak Knoll development has allowed the property to become a serious fire threat and health hazard for the people of Oakland.
Last week my office filed motions in bankruptcy court advising that it will take at least $6.7 million to complete the job of removing 90-plus tinderbox buildings, abating hazardous materials, cleaning up the trash dump conditions and clearing overgrown, fire-prone vegetation at the SunCal site.
The City Attorney’s Office appreciates SunCal’s announcement today that it will seek to secure $500,000 for maintenance and clean-up at Oak Knoll. While that’s a good start, it doesn’t come close to addressing the amount of work that needs to be done.
Like every other property owner, the trustee overseeing Oak Knoll is legally responsible for abating safety hazards and nuisance conditions. SunCal and its owner Lehman Brothers are clearly focused on protecting their assets in bankruptcy. However, these companies can’t ignore the law and their legal responsibilities in cities where they used to do business.
Today’s announcement is the first sign that SunCal and the bankruptcy trustee intend to comply with the Order to Abate served by the City in June. However, the bankruptcy court still must approve the payment, and the trustee has yet to file court documents asking for approval.
We look forward to working with SunCal and the bankruptcy trustee to complete the job and remove this real danger in the middle of our community.”
However, the City of Oakland has clean-up and hazardous waste abatement to do too, at their 5.5 acres of land at the site.
A copy of the City of Oakland order to abate fire hazards at Oak Knoll, referenced by both the City of Oakland Attorney’s office and Mr. Mitchell was sent to SunCal’s VP of Operations, Pat Keliher, who is in charge of the Alameda Point project.